Brent Stewart

Live life on purpose

First conference speaking engagement post-mortem

Well, I survived my first time speaking at a a conference and thought I would share some of the things that I learned.

Know your material

I know it sounds obvious, but make sure you know your material backwards and forwards because anything you can forget you will.  The added stress of having a group of people staring at you means that it is hard to recall anything that is not automatic.  While I knew most of my material very well, there was still a bit that I changed last minute and of course when the pressure was on I struggled to remember everything that I was planning on saying.

Have a paper copy of what to check before you start

I had an a list of things to check before my talk, but it was on my phone.  The speaker before me took a long time breaking down his setup, so I felt like I was in a hurry to get everything setup and in the hustle and bustle I forgot to pull up my list and I forgot to prep  some things that threw me for a loop during the presentation.

Engage with your audience prior to starting the presentation

This is one area where I felt I did decent, but could improve.  I talked with individuals as they came in and talked with the group and tried to get them comfortable with interacting, but you should never underestimate the awkwardness of a room full of introverts.  This is something that I have noticed that all of the speakers that I look up to seem to do well with.

Relax and enjoy the experience

I know this is easier said than done, but take a moment just prior to your session and appreciate where you are and how fortunate you to be able to do this.   

How do I take my career to the next level?

I think this question is probably asked by everyone in the software development field at some point, and the answer is never simple. Let's take a look at what is important and make a game plan that will get you where you want to go.

When looking at moving to the next level, the first question that you have to answer is "What is the next level for me?" Until you answer this, it is going to be pretty hard to make any goals or measure your progress. Do you want to move from a junior developer to a senior role, or move into more leadership type roles, or become a famous speaker? Knowing what you want is critical to making you game plan. So stop dreaming about some grand amorphous future and start writing down specifics about where you want to be, what you want to be doing, and how you want your career to progress.

After you have identified where you want to go, it is time to make a plan on how to get there. Your plan should consist of attainable goals that you can checked off as you make progress towards your desired career path.

Here are a couple of example scenarios to help you get started:

Scenario 1:

Who: A junior developer who wants to increase his skill levels, responsibilities, and compensation

Goal #1: Become more proficient at X technology that we use at work.


  • Find a mentor at work and build a relationship with them
  • Watch online training courses on the subject
  • Find an open source project that uses X and get involved
  • Find a user group for X and start attending the meetings

Goal #2: Increase my visibility to my bosses at work


  • Speak up more in meetings
  • Volunteer for tasks when the opportunities arises
  • Start inviting people to lunch
  • Look for extra curricular work activities that I can attend (i.e. hang out with the boss)

Goal #3: Get paid more

  • Track accomplishments at work (for negotiating leverage and resume building)
  • Polish up my resume
  • Find out what others in my position are making
  • Create a compelling argument that I deserve a raise
  • Ask for and get a raise, or find a new job

Scenario 2:

Who: A senior developer who wants to improve her marketability and personal brand

Goal #1: Pick a subject and become an expert on the topic


  • Make a list of topics that are in demand and are interesting to me
  • Dive deep into the topic by
    • Reading books/blogs
    • Watching training videos
    • Going to user group meetings
    • Following the social media of the experts on the subject

Goal #2: Increase public awareness about my expertise


  • Volunteer to talk at the local user group on the subject
  • Get a certification
  • Submit to talk at a regional conference
  • Use social media
    • Start tweeting about the subject
    • Converse through social media with experts
    • Write blog posts
    • Answer questions on StackOverflow

These are just some ideas to get you thinking. I hope that you can use this to get the creative juices flowing and evaluate where you want your career to go.

Teaching my daughter to type

My 10 year old daughter loves to write and is a creative and imaginative story teller.  I want her to be able to share her stories with others and luckily we live in a time and age where that is a simple matter. Her typing skills are the main thing that is keeping her from being able to share her stories, so I have decided that I would try to teach her to type. I have found that there are quite a few free websites dedicated to learning to type and they seem to wok well. The only issue that I have found is that most of the sites use Flash for the training, so learning on my Surface RT is out. I guess it is time to either find a good typing program for Windows RT, or maybe this is an opportunity for making an app. Let me know if you have any suggestions for good typing programs for kids.